Following the publishing of Mr Bates against The Post Office, support for a petition calling for ex-Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells’ CBE to be revoked has soared.
The four-part ITV drama series follows former subpostmaster Alan Bates, who had his Post Office in Craig-y-Don, north Wales, seized back in 2003 after being suspected of stealing.
Alan spent years digging down others who had also been suspected of manipulating records and pocketing money from their enterprises, all while the Post Office was prosecuting 700 employees for theft, false accounting, and fraud.
Many viewers were surprised to learn about what had previously been dubbed one of the UK’s “biggest miscarriages of justice,” as well as facts about how people were driven to commit suicide in order to clean their identities.
The Post Office punished hundreds of its employees under Vennells’ leadership, despite information that its Horizon computer system was faulty and might inaccurately display financial differences.
Now, thousands of signatures have been added to a three-year-old petition calling for her to be stripped of the CBE she received in 2019.
Explaining why it was important to have the honour rescinded, the petition’s creator David Smith said that it was ‘only right that this award is now withdrawn through the process of forfeiture’ as Vennells had ‘refused to apologise for the cover-up, misery and trauma caused which has brought not only herself but the Post Office, the honours system and government into disrepute’.
Up until the start of this week, the petition had around 1000 signatures, with Smith urging more people to pledge their support as ‘people’s lives were ruined in front of their eyes, their careers ended and [they endured] years of heartache and struggle to clear their names’.
‘We shouldn’t be honouring people who presided over this mess and haven’t taken any meaningful steps to help resolve the situation,’ he added.
Now, within two days, it now has over 15,000 signatures.
Recent signatories have made comments including: ‘There is no justification for not stripping Paula Vennells of her CBE. She should be held accountable for her decisions.’
The Post Office decided to settle with 555 claimants and pay £58 million in damages the same year Smith started the petition.
A High Court judge concluded that the approach of the Post Office ‘amounts to the 21st century equivalent of maintaining that the earth is flat’.
Alan also declined an OBE last year, claiming a desire not to accept the accolade while Vennells retained her CBE.
He said that she had ‘presided over a policy of harassing hundreds of innocent people’.
‘It’s not just that the Government hasn’t asked her to return it. What’s even worse is that despite knowing the strength of feeling about it, how people have suffered, and in some cases died on her watch – she doesn’t feel inclined to give it back.’
On Good Morning Britain on Tuesday, he also questioned the fact that she received the award during the crisis.
‘I mean it would have been a slap in the face to the rest of the group because Paula Vennells, the CEO for many years of Post Office, received a CBE for her services to Post Office. Well, what service has she actually done?’ he said.
‘She’s caused devastation to a major British institution that was at the heart of communities. She’s ruined thousands of lives over the years.
‘What on earth has she done to deserve that? It should be taken away now!’
Carol Vorderman has also backed him up, calling him a “man of honour” on social media.
In 2021 Vennells said she was ‘truly sorry’ for the ‘suffering’ caused to subpostmasters who were wrongly convicted of offences.
Mr Bates vs the Post Office continues tonight at 9pm on ITV1. Also airing on January 4 is Mr Bates vs the Post Office: The Real Story at 10.45pm on ITV1.